Chicago to Swap Street Lights for LED

Photo courtesy of Ald. Joe MooreThe 49th Ward is one of seven locations participating in the pilot program for LED lighting.

Residents can expect to see a new type of light illuminating the Chicago skyline in the next four years. The new lighting is part of the Chicago Smart Lighting Project, which aims to replace all street lamps in residential areas of the city with energy-saving LED lights and sensors.

The project is a collaborative effort by Chicago’s 50 neighborhood wards, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT).

“Replacement of the HPS lamps will come at no additional cost to Chicago taxpayers,” according to a press release from the Mayor’s press office, referring to the city’s current High Pressure Sodium (HPS) lights.

The CIT issued a Request for Qualifications and Proposals, which asks businesses to submit and present their plans for the project to City Council. Six companies responded to the request, including Aldridge Electric, Inc., Corporation Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and Itron.

LED lights last up to three times longer than the current street lamps, and each new street lamp would include a lighting management sensor that could provide status updates when outages occur, according to the CIT website.

The 49th Ward, which includes Rogers Park, Edgewater and West Ridge, is one of seven pilot project locations selected for the smart lighting initiative. The project also includes an upgrade in light poles and wiring to make the lighting system more reliable.  

Senior ad/PR major and Rogers Park resident Rachel Consoles said the current streetlights near her residence are less than satisfactory.

“The streetlights (in Rogers Park) are in OK condition. They’re typically all working, but occasionally, the ones on my street are out for long periods of time,” said Consoles.

From December to early January this year, community members observed the new streetlights and the Alderman’s office encouraged all Rogers Park residents to take an online survey administered by the CIT to give input on the lights’ coverage, color and placement.

“Given the neighborhood’s culture of participation, I believe they asked Ald. Moore to get involved in order to get many people to respond and to get meaningful feedback,” said Bob Fuller, legislative aide to 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore.

Only the CDOT and the CIT have access to the formal survey, but Fuller said the feedback the Alderman’s office has received directly from residents has been constructive and informative, with some residents concerned about light pollution and potential side effects of such light intensity.

“It is expected that this will be one of the largest LED lighting conversions in the country,” said Commissioner of the CDOT Rebekah Scheinfeld during the Chicago Smart Lighting Demonstration. “We are looking at the ambitious goal of replacing over 270,000 light fixtures across the City of Chicago in four years.”

The demonstration gave officials from the City of Chicago, including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a chance to install the first LED light and hold a press conference to describe the project.

The CIT expects the project to take four years to complete, but Chicago residents might be looking at a brighter, more efficient skyline in 2021.

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